It seems Netanyahu’s crime is not so much a breach of diplomatic protocol, but rather, opposing the Administration’s position on making concessions to Iran. But don’t the American citizens deserve a debate?
On March 3rd, despite conflicting opinions on the wisdom of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s addressing the U.S. Congress on Iran without specific U.S. presidential approval, Netanyahu is scheduled to address the concerns of Israel, many members of Congress and world leaders. He will emphasize that no deal with the Iranian ayatollahs would be safer than a bad deal which would dismantle the sanctions regime even further, leaving one of the world’s leading state sponsors of global terrorism to become a threshold nuclear power.
An argument rarely heard to support his Congressional presentation (despite the absence of proper diplomatic protocol) is that President Obama himself hosted British Prime Minister David Cameron recently at the White House and used him to lobby lawmakers to oppose new sanctions on Iran even though Cameron is involved in the run-up to the British General Election this spring.
Nor is Cameron an exception. Obama also met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in June 2009, just three months before her country held elections, and when President Clinton was in the White House, he hosted then Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres of the Labor Party less than a month before the 1996 elections. That meeting was perceived as support for the dovish prime minister who ended up losing to Netanyahu in any event. It seems Netanyahu’s crime is not so much a breach of diplomatic protocol, but rather, opposing the Administration’s position on making concessions to Iran.
It may be true that Netanyahu’s appearance in Washington may help him to gain support in the Israeli parliamentary elections to be held on March 17th, but that has little to do with the importance of an address to Congress by a concerned Middle East ally on the subject of Iran – a country that has threatened Israel with extinction and sees America as “the Great Satan”.
As the Obama Administration pushes to complete a nuclear accord with Iran, numerous members of Congress, former Secretaries of State, and officials of allied governments are now expressing the same concerns as Netanyahu about the contours of the emerging deal that would allow Iran to become a threshold nuclear power – meaning leaving its entire nuclear weapons-making infrastructure largely intact.
The Obama Administration went from saying “no enrichment of uranium” to a “temporary complete enrichment freeze” to a “partial freeze,” coupled with shipping some of Iran’s stockpile to Russia. As a result, Iran has gone from insignificant levels of enrichment prior to 2010 to thousands of kilograms of enriched uranium today. If the President is about to sign an agreement that many experts agree is a bad one, don’t the American people deserve a national debate, as an editorial in the Washington Post called for in early February?
Is it possible that the President is afraid to start a vigorous debate on his Iran strategy that would expose it as potentially harmful to Western interests? Worse, according to the Washington Post (November 26, 2014), secret letters have already been sent begging Iran for a compromise, and no one is talking about dismantling Iran’s nuclear program anymore.
It seems that the concern over Netanyahu’s pending speech is more about diplomatic protocol and politics than the international ramifications that would flow from a nuclear Iran. If Iran truly needs enriched uranium for civilian purposes, it could import enriched uranium as do Canada, Mexico, and Spain. Even the U.S. imports the vast majority of its enriched uranium and has no currently operating industrial-scale enrichment facilities, according to Olli Heinonen, former Deputy Director-General for Safeguards at the International Atomic Energy Agency. Moreover, the Israeli position is in line with six UN Security Council resolutions adopted between 2006 and 2010 with the support of Russia and China.
We cannot leave Iran with thousands of centrifuges to enrich uranium when it doesn’t even need a single centrifuge to have peaceful nuclear energy.
Part of the concern felt by the Israeli government and the U.S. Congress emanates from the change in the goals of Western negotiators. Where it once aimed to eliminate Iran’s ability to enrich uranium, the Administration now appears ready to accept an infrastructure of thousands of Iranian centrifuges. That is, rather than eliminate Iran’s potential to build nuclear weapons, the Administration now wants to restrict Iranian capabilities which would leave Tehran in a position to break out of any restrictions in the future.
The fact that the President is “encouraged” by the Iranian government’s denials of any intention to develop nuclear weapons capability flies in the face of the most recent International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report issued in mid-February to the effect that “”Iran has not provided any explanations that enable the agency to clarify the outstanding practical measures” – referring to allegations of explosives tests and other activity that could be used to develop nuclear bombs.
In fact, since 2002 when the existence of Iran’s nuclear program became public, the IAEA has been unable to determine in any definite manner whether Tehran’s nuclear activities are intended for peaceful purposes or for the production of nuclear weapons.
The UN Security Council has adopted a number of resolutions requiring that Iran stop enriching uranium to the level at which it can be used to make nuclear bombs. When Iran did not comply, sanctions were imposed to get Iran to accede to these resolutions. Now, those sanctions are in jeopardy of being compromised.
The fact is – Iran has refused to compromise on the number of centrifuges it will maintain. It has refused to dismantle its existing nuclear infrastructure including its development of new advanced centrifuges, the development of ballistic missiles, and the military uses of its nuclear technology. At least 19,000 centrifuges have been installed of which 10,200 are operating according to the New York Times (September 28, 2014). The nuclear program has not been dismantled. Iran retains its nuclear facilities at its fortified secret underground uranium enrichment facility at Fordow, its heavy water nuclear reactor in Arak, its uranium enrichment facilities at Natanz, and its intercontinental ballistic missile research program at Parchin and all continue to function at full speed.
Moreover, in a January 26, 2014 interview with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani declared that Iran “will not accept any limitation” on its nuclear technology in the context of a comprehensive agreement between Tehran and the West, and that the Iranians will not “under any circumstances” agree to destroy any uranium enrichment centrifuges. Even former Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani insisted: “I would rather let a million people starve than stop work on the Iranian nuclear project.”
So, are the Iranians to be trusted? The initial figure (discussed by the United States and its negotiating partners) was a few hundred centrifuges. Now, the Administration is contemplating thousands. As a result, both Netanyahu and the majority of the U.S. Congress believe that the current P5+1 proposal will not solve the problem of Iran developing a nuclear weapon. Quite the contrary. The P5+1 proposal will legitimize Iran as a nuclear threshold state. A good agreement must dismantle the military dimensions of the Iranian nuclear program including all of its components. This should be the one and only priority for Western negotiators and that is what Netanyahu intends to say to the U.S. Congress.
These are reasons for concern. The Agreement that seems to be evolving provides a path for Iran to become a nuclear power. The proposal would enable Iran to breakout to its first nuclear weapon within a matter of months. It would allow Iran to build an industrial capability to enrich uranium that could provide the fuel for many bombs in the coming years. The goal must not be merely to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons today, but (as Netanyahu has said often) to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons tomorrow.
No one seems to be talking about the fact that since 1979, this messianic and apocalyptic regime has made Iran the leading state sponsor of terrorism in the world. Since 1984, it has been on the State Department’s terrorist list, and the elite Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, which is the regime’s main unit for supporting terrorists abroad, is on the list of Specially Designated Nations involved in terrorism. The Iranians have perpetrated or ordered attacks on over 25 countries on 5 continents in the last four years alone. Revolutionary powers, driven by the consuming faith of being on the right side of history, cannot be appeased. You cannot compromise with Allah.
Iran has already devoured four Arab capitals – Baghdad, Beirut, Saana and Damascus – and the regime’s history is rife with state-sponsored terror against Western targets including the murder of hundreds of marines in Lebanon. It was Iranian-made improvised explosive devices with Farsi imprinted on them that killed and tore off the limbs of American servicemen in Iraq and Afghanistan. Their attacks range from bombing U.S. embassies in Africa, to the twin bombings in Argentina over two decades ago.
Iran also supports Hamas, Hezbollah, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, the Syrian regime of President Assad, the Houthi separatist rebels who now control Yemen, and Shiite militias in Iraq. In direct violation of UN Security Council Resolutions, Iran has transferred enormous sums of money to Hezbollah and has trained thousands of its fighters in Iran. Since 1991, Iran has been helping al Qaeda in its operations, including enabling it to move funds and fighters to South Asia and Syria. In December 2011 a U.S. District Court Judge, George B. Daniels, ruled that Iran directly supported al Qaeda in the 9/11 attacks on the US.
In short, over the past 36 years, Iran has felt confident doing all this without a nuclear weapon. So, how much more dangerous will Iran be with nuclear capabilities – not to mention the issue of nuclear proliferation and the fact that the world’s least stable regimes (most notably Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Turkey) would seek the world’s most dangerous weapon to counter the Iranian nuclear threat.
Iran is not just a state with dreams of regional hegemony. It is a revolutionary regime seeking to reshape the map of the region and the belief system of the world. It is not only seeking nuclear-weapons capability to preserve its regime; it is doing so to extend its Islamic revolution. Preventing this terrorist regime from becoming a nuclear power should be an immediate priority for this Administration. If Netanyahu’s detailing these realities to our elected representatives in Congress is wrong, then we will have sacrificed world stability for political correctness and that will prove to be historically unforgivable.
As Prof. Alan Dershowitz noted recently: “Under the Constitution, the executive and legislative branches share responsibility for making and implementing important foreign-policy decisions. Congress has a critical role to play in scrutinizing the decisions of the President when these decisions involve national security, relationships with allies and the threat of nuclear proliferation.”
]In short, it is the responsibility of every member of Congress to listen to Prime Minister Netanyahu, who probably knows more about this issue than any world leader, because it threatens the very existence of the nation state of the Jewish people. The last thing we want to do is to leave this terrorist regime anywhere near nuclear weapons.
The writer is a foreign policy analyst for the Ariel Center for Policy Research (Israel). He is a former member of the Canadian Justice Department, a past Director of the Canadian Jewish Congress (Western Office), a member of Hadassah’s National Academic Advisory Board and a Contributing Editor for Family Security Matters and Intellectual Conservative. He served as a Consultant to the Secretary General of the Jewish Agency in Jerusalem during the first Palestinian intifada. His book “The Quartermasters of Terror: Saudi Arabia and the Global Islamic Jihad” and articles are archived at www.acpr.org.il andwww.marksilverbeg.com.